Obama administration officials have privately warned Pakistani leaders that continued inaction against Taliban and al Qaeda havens bordering Afghanistan could jeopardize some of the large U.S. cash payouts on which Islamabad depends.
The warnings raise the stakes for talks this week in Washington between U.S. and Pakistani officials, after months of growing tensions in which the administration has delivered a steady drumbeat of criticism of Islamabad’s perceived unwillingness to take stronger action against the Afghan Taliban and its allies.
U.S. officials also have periodically offered optimism and increased help, including proposing added military aid earlier this week.
The U.S. is under pressure to show gains in the war in advance of the planned drawdown of U.S. troops, due to begin in July. It has ramped up military operations in Afghanistan’s south and east, facilitated Afghan-led talks with the Taliban, and stepped up a campaign of drone strikes against militant groups that stage cross-border attacks from Pakistan.
Those efforts have heightened the need for support from Pakistan, which says it has stepped up its own efforts but doesn’t have the resources to go into the regions where the militants are based because of other needs.
The White House also has decided not to provide equipment or training to Pakistani Army units that have been accused of killing prisoners or civilians, according to a military official. That move follows a U.S. investigation into a recent video that showed Pakistani military personnel killing a prisoner. About a half dozen units will be affected by the new policy, reported first by The New York Times.
On Wednesday, President Barack Obama dropped by a meeting of his top advisers and Pakistani officials, including the military chief, Gen. Ashfaq Kayani, and Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi. A White House statement issued afterwards highlighted the need to “increase pressure on extremist safe-havens” but didn’t repeat previous White House praise of Islamabad fighting militants.
Funding represents the greatest U.S. leverage over Islamabad. U.S. military and civilian funding for Pakistan totaled more than $3.5 billion over the last year, according to congressional estimates. But concerns have risen in Congress about how that money is spent and whether Pakistan is obstructing U.S. goals in Afghanistan.
The administration said this week it intends to increase annual grants for Pakistan to buy U.S. defense equipment, but officials warned that Congress could pare that back.
Administration and congressional officials also said hundreds of millions of dollars a year in so-called Coalition Support Fund payments, which reimburse Pakistan for its military operations against militants, could face future cuts.
The U.S. hasn’t made any reimbursement to Pakistan since May 27; the Pentagon is reviewing the requests. The U.S. reimbursed Pakistan $1.3 billion between January and May for Pakistani operations conducted in 2008 and 2009, but has not paid for operations in 2010.
On Thursday, an official with the Pakistani military spy agency said Islamabad wants to take part in the peace contacts between Kabul and Taliban officials, warning that excluding Pakistan could jeopardize them.
Obama administration officials say they want to include Pakistani representatives, in part to help ensure that Islamabad doesn’t try to scuttle the talks.
Some Western and Afghan officials say they believe Pakistan’s spy agency arrested Taliban second-in-command Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar in Feburary to halt talks that excluded Islamabad. Pakistan denies this.
—Arif Afzalzada in Kabul contributed to this article.
Source: The Wall street Journal